Five years ago, just after giving birth to my oldest daughter, I started hemorrhaging–the doctors told me that they would try to save my uterus and ovaries. If that wasn’t possible, I would have to get a hysterectomy. If the bleeding didn’t stop, I would die. What had been nine months of a drama-free pregnancy had now turned into a drama-filled nightmare.
I had a relatively easy, but long (twenty-seven hour) labor. Once I was fully dilated, delivery was fast and easy. I remember thinking at the time that it was almost too easy. After ten pushes and twenty minutes, my beautiful daughter was born. I felt myself deliver the placenta and as I held my daughter for a few moments, I could feel a shift in the mood of the hospital room. Before I knew it, the serene beauty of the room was tainted by the sounds of warning beeps from the machines I was hooked up to and the room became flooded with strangers.
Enter the emergency personnel. My husband and daughter were rushed out of the room and taken into the nursery. Blood was pouring out of my body as my life hung in the balance. After a three-hour long surgery, during which I was fully conscious, I was in critical condition. Instead of staying in intensive care, my doctor fought for me to be able to be reunited with my baby and husband. I was told not to move a muscle. I couldn’t nurse or hold my daughter. I lay awake all night in pain. Afraid to sleep, afraid to move, afraid that every breath I took might shake loose whatever was keeping me together. I stared at my daughter all night. Her big round brown eyes peered through the bassinet. I made a promise to her that I would be ok–she would not be a motherless child. I survived and we went home five days later. Most of my friends thought I had a C-section because I was in the hospital for so long.
A few weeks later, I was diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Because of what had happened, I was afraid to leave the house. This was such a new feeling to me. I am professional make-up artist and I have had the opportunity to travel all over the world. I have never been afraid to go anywhere. Now, when I did leave my home, I was easily startled and wrought with anxiety that something might happen to me, my daughter, or my husband.
It became increasingly difficult to sleep at night. The demands of motherhood took over and I pushed my personal feelings about what happened aside. I was excited to be a new mom and savored the days I spent with my baby. I challenged myself to get out of the house. I joined a hospital support group for new moms and signed up for “Mommy and me” baby music classes. As I met more new moms I felt a common bond among us as we talked about breastfeeding, sleep schedules and baby gear. We also shared intimate details of our lives that you would never think you would share with strangers. I made great friends through joining that group. Despite my outgoing nature and positive outlook on life, deep inside of myself I felt like a silent victim as a result of what was supposed to be a beautiful day. No one else I met had postpartum hemorrhaging. And my feelings about the hemorrhaging and the surgery never went away. My emotions cycled through anger, guilt, fearfulness and sadness.
My mother-in-law saw Christy Turlington Burns on a morning news program shortly after my daughter’s birth and called to tell me to tune in. Christy was being interviewed about why she founded Every Mother Counts and recounted her own story of having a postpartum hemorrhage after the birth of her first child. I felt an instant connection to Every Mother Counts and to Christy. I have followed the organization ever since. I am so proud of the work that Every Mother Counts has done all over the world to educate people about maternal health.
I am proud to say that today I am feeling great! I gave birth to another baby girl on March 19, 2014. I had no complications during her birth. I remain very active in advocating for better maternal healthcare and helping other birth trauma survivors.
I am proud to be able to shine a light on maternal health and PTSD. Several years ago,when I first heard Christy Turlington Burns tell her story, I knew I was not alone. There are so many women out there who have experienced a traumatic birth and seek someone with a similar experience to connect to, but don’t know where to find the resources they need. Through therapy, I learned that connecting to other women and sharing my story was going to impact my recovery in a positive way. I learned that it was okay to talk about my feelings, that they are honest and normal. Feelings of embarrassment and perhaps fear of being given an inappropriate label, often cause trauma victims to avoid discussing their mental and emotional anguish.
What started out as a simple little website about my life as a celebrity make-up artist, evolved into my personal journal. In sharing my story with all of you, I hope that those of you who have experienced birth trauma, or trauma of any kind, will find that you have a friend and someone who you can connect with.
Follow my journey. You are not alone.